The Art of Slowing Down (and Other Timely Advice)

by Kyle Clapham

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve been speaking with contractors about the unknown as well as the importance of preparedness in the event of an emergency. We analyzed what needs to be done in such situations as the one we’re facing now. But just as important, we emphasized the need to plan how we must face our current reality.

When the world turns upside down, and everybody enters panic mode, our natural instinct is to speed up. We want to get everything done as quickly as possible. When the pandemic hit our industry, the fuse was lit and companies were charging full steam ahead, some applying for Small Business Association (SBA) loans. It was a rush to get the applications. Then it was a scramble to find banks we could apply to. And once the loans were approved, word filtered out about an expiration date. Funds had to be spent within an eight-week period in order to be forgiven. So it was off to the races again, even without clear guidance from the SBA on loan forgiveness.

Before panic-spending, and before rushing off to do anything else, maybe it’s time that we all just slow down and collect our thoughts. Let’s re-examine the road ahead. Yes, we may only have eight weeks to spend this loan, but don’t make any drastic moves until you know all of the rules and guidelines. At this point, things are changing. Everything is very fluid and far from concrete. We need to be fluid, too, and willing to adapt to the changes that could come every day. The end goal is to make informed decisions to help us keep all of our employees and survive the months to come.

A Word About Chess

The current economic climate is a lot like playing chess. While we don’t know exactly what will happen next, we can anticipate what needs to be done when certain moves and events happen. To continue with the SBA example, we all sprinted ahead without the official rules from the government, and many of us should have awaited clarification.

We have to do the best we can with the info we have. At first, I advised people not to get crazy with their money. I thought it was clear: We need to spend on payroll costs and overhead in order for the loan to be forgiven.

And then, with payroll and overhead accounted for, I thought, “Hey, let’s then do the projects we normally wouldn’t. Let’s invest in projects we didn’t think we’d have the money to invest in.” Then I learned that only 25 percent can be spent on non-payroll related items for the loan to be forgiven. This was followed by language about needing to retain the same number of full-time employees (FTEs). Then more information trickled down by another interpretation of the rules. This is where keeping fluid matters most.

For now, we need to take things slow and think it through. Think about every possible move—and even five moves ahead—so you don’t get blindsided.

A Word About Cheese

In addition to anticipating what the future may hold, we must also get to a place where we are willing to make the necessary changes when they are required. If you haven’t read it already, there is a smartly written book about adjusting to change called, “Who Moved My Cheese?” In this book, Dr. Spencer Johnson examines how people don’t want change. We resist it.

As the story unfolds, there are two mice and two “little people” living inside a maze. Every day the two mice and two little people go out in search of cheese. This cheese has always been in the same spot until one day, it’s all gone. Upon this discovery, they search out more cheese. The little people, however, look at this situation with dismay and complain that the cheese is gone. Instead of searching for new cheese, the little people wait for the cheese to come back, but soon learn that it’s not going to.

The story concludes with one of the little people venturing out to find new cheese, while the other one stubbornly stays behind. The little person who embraces change and searches for new cheese is rewarded by finding some.

The moral of “Who Moved My Cheese?” is perfectly suited for our lives at this time. We can’t wait for things to return to the status quo. That’s not an option. We need to adapt and help our businesses adapt in order to survive, whether this means finally transitioning from print marketing to digital or taking your sales process online so that you can make virtual house calls instead of conducting them in person. Who knows, maybe this will become the new normal. Maybe we’ll discover that there’s greater efficiency in conducting our sales online—that by eliminating travel, our team can just log in and get three times as many sales calls in a day.

Get With the Times

The sooner that you embrace the change, the better off your business will be. We can only make decisions to the best of our ability with the information we have. It’s funny because I heard from some, “Oh, this government bailout, I wouldn’t apply for that loan; it’s too good to be true.” And you know what? There were a lot of people who took that stance. They didn’t look for “new cheese” if you will.

I, however, applied on the very first day. For everything! The grants. The loans. And I got fully funded. Now I hear the same people saying they weren’t able to get anything. Sometimes you just need to make the best possible decision with the information you have. QR

Scott Siegal is the owner of Maggio Roofing in Washington, D.C., and also owns the Certified Contractors Network. You can learn more about CCN by going to the website contractors.net.

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